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January 17, 2017

First Drive: 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S

It’s not every day you have a committed man thinking of having an illicit affair, but that’s exactly what happened when I got introduced to the shapely new 2017 Subaru Impreza. As a proud owner of an immaculate 2008 model (the rare hatchback no less), I’ve always found it difficult to find a suitable replacement to her charms. After every test drive, I always come back to my beloved Empress’s sweet embrace and I think to myself: ‘till death do us part. That is until I met Empress’s sultry younger sister.

For decades, the Subaru family has always been wayward with their design with vehicles being called everything from ugly to odd; my Empress included. Her younger sister doesn’t fit any of those descriptions. There’s just enough going on around her body to attract the eye while the shapely fenders tell you she loves a good workout. Dead-on, her face is still pretty much nondescript, but at least she’s pretty enough to pass as anyone’s schoolmate crush.

And things get more interesting after that. After chatting with her, I got to know her more realizing she shares almost nothing in common with her siblings. She’s “all-new” in the truest sense of the word with everything from the wheels to the windows new and specific to her.

Getting in, I immediately realize how she’s much easier to see out of compared to my Empress (and even the Impreza model after that). Despite a misnomer that crossovers provide better visibility compared to a sedan, this 2017 Impreza corrects that thinking. She’s easy to see out of in every direction while also giving the entire interior a light and airy feel. Surrounding the great view is easy-to-understand instrumentation scattered across three different zones. Front and center to me is the large round speedometer and tachometer with a multi-function LCD screen sandwiched in the middle. There are two other LCD screens: one set atop the center stack, displaying a multitude of driving info and one directly below it serving as the command center for the infotainment system.

And speaking of her infotainment, it’s a clear step up from previous Subaru efforts with large, clear screen icons and a snappy and responsive interface. More than that, she’s also at the top of the infotainment system game, finally getting both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to work with her. The inclusion of Near Field Communications or NFC also allows the wireless connection of smartphones to the infotainment system. And she gets plus points for including physical buttons and dials for both the audio and climate controls.

The 2017 Impreza has also gotten a lot more sophisticated. I close the door and it shuts with an unmistakable feel of solidity. And then, as I work my way feeling and poking through the dashboard, buttons, stalks, and switches, it has a more cohesive feel to them with the materials a major leap forward in quality. Plus, she’s learned to be more practical with 29 millimeters more shoulder room upfront and 26 millimeters more legroom at the back. Even the luggage area has been slightly enlarged too.

Her subtly shapely body marks the debut of a new set of bones that will underpin everything that’ll come out of the Subaru family for the foreseeable future. Called the Subaru Global Platform, it increases her body’s rigidity by 70 percent and her chassis by 100 percent while also lowering the center of gravity by 5 millimeters. What’s more, despite all that working out, her curb weight remains in line with the outgoing model.

A special handling track designed for the First Drive pitted the 2017 Impreza against two of its benchmarks who also happen to be the best that Japan and Europe has the offer at the moment: the Mazda3 and the Volkswagen Golf. Surprisingly, the twice-the-price Audi A3 was also thrown in for good measure.

Imprezas have always ranked among the best-riding compact cars and the 2017 doesn’t break that streak as she can effortlessly glide through the “comfort course” where undulating steel bars represented road ruts. Set to upset the chassis both in a left-right-left and front-back manner, she went through at twice the speed of her competitors while still exhibiting much better riding comfort. The stiffer chassis means there’s not one interior rattle that could be heard. Moving then to the “handling course”, she showed off her newfound agility. With the front struts and rear multi-links mounted to a stiffer sub-frame, she keeps the rolling and pitching to a minimum. Nicking the BRZ’s 13:1 steering ratio too, her initial turn-in is quick followed by a surprising absence of drama as her rear-end clears the cones. Compared to Imprezas of old, she needs les sawing of the wheel to get her to obey and there’s no hint of understeer too. Finally, in the “confidence course”, the Impreza is the only one that managed to do an emergency lane change maneuver on a low-grip steel sheet surface in the wet without any problem. In the Mazda3 and Golf? I hit a cardboard cutout of a granny crossing the “street.”

For all that fun about tossing and turning the Impreza through corners and curves, her solid platform could definitely use more power. Though a hotted-up WRX will eventually solve that problem for sure, for now, the 2.0-liter engine is merely adequate. She easily scoots along with the CVT changing gear ratios unobtrusively. However, stepping deeper into the accelerator and the transmission does require a moment to adjust. She does try to simulate a traditional automatic, “shifting” with discrete steps, but the engine’s peaky character makes me wonder if she’s doing that on purpose to reduce the transmission’s high rpm whirring sound.

All told, the 2017 Impreza represents a substantial leap for Subaru. Though I’ve always found it hard to find a car that can hold a candle against my first love, my Empress now has a competitor for my affection and it just so happens to be in the form of her younger sister. As a Subaru Impreza owner, I find the 2017 model much more desirable and appealing than ever before without losing any of the virtues that made it a success in the first place.

More about the 2017 Subaru Impreza here and here.


  1. Mazda 3 2017, Honda Civic 2016, or this Subaru Impreza 2017?

  2. The best in its class. Except for the ground clearance and cost of maintenance.

    1. And fuel efficiency. How this won the car of the year in Japan, I'll never understand.

    2. ^ What are you talking about? It's even more efficient than the Toyota Altis and anything the Koreans offer. Ground clearance? Virtually all Honda and Mazda sedans are low as well.

      For the maintenance cost, I won't argue with that. Also, the price is too steep for the adequate power and features it offers. Should be lower for sure.

    3. The altis and the koreans are not known to be that fuel efficient. The civic's 1.5 turbo and mazda3's 2.0L are probablh more fuel efficient because they are non AWD. Ground clearance is low for the civic but not for the mazda 3. Look it up, 155mm.

    4. ^ That's why I didn't mention the Civic. It's more efficient with a smaller engine for sure. For the Mazda, I've driven a 3, the one thing that doesn't make it as efficient as its peers - though it makes it much fun to drive - is its 6AT. the Impreza uses a CVT (so does the Civic).

      The handling is awesome as well. Subaru has perfected AWD that it becomes a non-factor and can match others in fuel efficiency. My Forester reaches 12.2L/100KM. Pretty good for someone who fights through EDSA every single day.

      Lastly, Sedans are basically going lower these days. Hell, even the new Camry is low now. I'll still question the practicality of a Sedan nowadays, though, given that our public roads (ahem government) has pot holes, no lights, prone to flooding, broken, etc.

    5. It is fuel-efficient, so pulubis can drive a Subaru now.

  3. There's a lot of things to consider that's why it won the Japan COTY 2016-2017:

    Cons: Low ground clearance
    High cost of maintenance
    Not that fuel efficient (weakness of boxer engines)

    Pros: Superb build quality
    Superior handling ( Subaru's symmetrical AWD is unmatched)
    Comfortable ride (you wouldn't even notice that the engine is running)
    OUTSTANDING SAFETY FEATURES (Subaru is rated top 3 in the world along with luxury brands)

    1. is not the weakness of boxer engines, it is the weight due to AWD.

  4. Might be "another" model for Subaru. Impreza base models have not been good sellers here because of other default compact car choices out there.

    1. Except that the variant they're bringing in here is not the base model, as it is the top-of-the-line 2.0 liter variant. Check out Uly's other article on the Philippine specs.

    2. Filipinos better have Toyota/Honda/Mitsubishi/etc.. a.k.a common brands on the road, everything gets jologs when they it is a fad.

  5. very nice. but I wouldn't buy an impreza without boost.

    the ground clearance I dont understand why people hate it. buy an suv if its too low for you. looks really good with the clearance. alanganaman kasing taas nang forester yan


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